The Lego Group, a privately held company based in Billund, Denmark, originally designed the colorful line of interlocking bricks known as Legos in the 1940s. The company name "Lego," coined by Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen, came from the Danish phrase "leg godt," which means "play well."
Legos slowly gained popularity over the years, though the toy sets were first rejected by retailers in fear that plastic toys would never replace wooden ones. Retailers soon discovered they were wrong in this regard. Lego pieces of all varieties are part of a universal system; despite some changes in design, those made in 1958 will still interlock with those made in 2009. They have also spawned a subculture of Lego movies, games, competitions and four Lego-themed amusement parks.
Though the brand has had some challenges over the years -- for example, in 2004, losses totaled nearly $300 million, according to an Ad Age article
-- it has continued to bounce back. Lego sales spiked 18 percent in 2008 and, in the first half of 2009, were up 23 percent. Lego toys, particularly Lego Star Wars, are expected to top the charts in toy sales this holiday season. What's more? The much-anticipated Lego Universe
will launch in 2010.(AP Photo/Anders Brohus)